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First certified organic rice export for Europe

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A worker holds a bowl of rice at a mill in Phnom Penh. Photograph: Anne Renzenbrink/Phnom Penh Post

Five metric tonnes of certified organic rice — the first such shipment from Cambodia — will depart for the European Union this Friday.

The shipment was produced by CEDAC supported organic rice producers, and will be exported from Cambodia by an entity called Green Trade, comprises three tonnes of brown rice and two tonnes of white jasmine rice. It will be received in Europe by a German company called El Puente GmbH based in Nordstemmen.

Green Trade, a government-established but privately held entity, had milled the organic rice on Monday and yesterday, Green Trade chairman and director-general Virak Thon said.

Despite export being one of its minor functions (this year, it has exported only 500 tonnes of rice, 100 tonnes of this amount was organic rice from CEDAC to the USA), Green Trade is the only mill in Cambodia certified to send organic rice to the EU, according to CEDAC adviser Claudius Bredehoeft.

“The main function of Green Trade is to reserve stock for the government. Our second function is to stabilise the price in the local market. and the third is the export and import of agricultural products,” Thon said.

Green Trade states that external experts from Satake, the Japanese company that supplied the mill with equipment, visit its mills every three months to ensure that non-organic substances have not contaminated their equipment. Additionally, an international certification body inspects Green Trade one time per year to renew the certification following the EU organic regulations.

Between inspections, Green Trade’s internal practices help maintain the quality of their product and machines, as outlined by Thon.

“For insect and vermin control, we avoid using poisons. In terms of catching mice and rats, we set traps rather than risk contaminating the paddy by poisoning them,” he said.

“My staff takes care of the technical aspects of the machine. It’s checked every day, and anything that isn’t good is fixed or replaced. ” Thon said that in preparation for the possibility of flooding, the government had ordered 10,000 tonnes of rice to be put into the national reserve.

Thon also said future efforts would be directed towards growing and storing cassava and soy beans.

“Our first goal is to be well established in milling rice. Once we’ve managed that, we’ll incorporate cassava and soy beans,” he said.

Currently, the company mainly sources its rice from brokers, but Thon outlined plans to buy directly from the farmers through contracting them directly.

“In the future, we’ll incorporate contract farming. Perhaps by 2013, when we’ll have to talk to the farmers. 2012 has been preoccupied with putting rice away in case of flooding.”

Green Trade, established in 1998, is under the technical supervision of the Ministry of Commerce and audited by the Ministry of Economy and Finance. Though state-owned in name, it controls its profits.

“The government receives our product to be placed in the national reserve. When we make a profit, it goes back into the company,” Thon said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Erika Mudie at erika.mudie@phnompenhpost.com

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